Playing House
  • Playing House

Back in 2012, improv vets and real-life best friends Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham had their own sitcom on NBC called Best Friends Forever about the common conundrum of splitting one’s time, love, and attention between a significant other and a best friend.

St. Clair played “Jessica” and Parham played “Lennon,” appropriately enough, the former a recent divorcee who moves in with the latter and her very nice live-in boyfriend, who becomes a third wheel in the new situation. It was perfectly cute and funny, mostly because of St. Clair and Parham’s chemistry, but the ratings were just so-so—NBC yanked the series from its schedule after just four of the six filmed episodes had aired. Following a smattering of social media outrage and the circulation of a petition (that I may or may not have signed) the network agreed to air the last two episodes several months later.

I imagine the dull roar of their fans crying out went a long way in helping the women successfully pitch another cowritten-cocreated-costarring sitcom to a different network like a year later—especially one so similar. Playing House, which is six episodes into its first season on USA, features St. Clair and Parham—Emma and Maggie this time around—as best friends living together after a decade apart and after a pregnant Maggie discovers her husband, Bruce, is having an online tryst with a kinky German woman. (It’s a real sitcommy setup, minus the mention of anal penetration: Maggie finds out about the affair when a rendezvous in progress is accidentally broadcast on the living room television during her baby shower.)

Emma, who lives in China and is a high-powered something-or-other, agrees to move back to the small hometown she hates to help Maggie raise the child, presumably with Bruce’s help (I mean, I’m pretty sure his brand of Internet pervert would retain parental rights).

No, it’s not the most plausible premise, but neither was the premise of Who’s the Boss, and I don’t hear any of you complaining about that. There’s some discussion of Maggie’s reluctance to abruptly end her (admittedly unhappy) 13-year marriage when she’s any-day-now pregnant, but for the most part she deals with the estrangement better than I imagine most people would, with a best friend present or without. But anyway, it’s more fun that they keep it light. If we can move on like Maggie did, we’ll enjoy watching the women regress back to their teenage selves—the first few episodes alone feature a disastrous brunch with a woman they terrorized in high school, fights with mom, and backseat sex—in the weeks before a baby comes along and ruins all the fun.

As long as St. Clair and Parham’s chemistry is intact, at least it won’t ruin the show.

Playing House, USA, Tuesdays at 9 PM